What Lisa Watched Last Night #198: Psycho Stripper (dir by Jake Helgren)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime premiere, Psycho Stripper!Why Was I Watching It?

Why was I watching it?  Seriously, with a name like Psycho Stripper, how couldn’t I watch it!?  There’s an art to coming up with a good title and whoever came up with Psycho Stripper has obviously perfected that art.  The title was so great that I even abandoned the neighborhood Cinco De Mayo party early, just so I could watch the movie in the comfort of my own home.  That’s the power of a perfect title!

Also, I have to give some credit to Lifetime, here.  Before they showed Psycho Stripper, they showed Magic Mike.  So, on Sunday night, viewers got a chance to see two separate versions of the life of a male stripper, the yellow-tinted Steven Soderbergh version (seriously, I like Magic Mike but, whenever I watch it, I worry all that yellow is going to burn my retinas) and the wonderfully over-the-top Lifetime version!

What Was It About?

Amber (Karissa Lee Staples) owns her own dance studio, has a lot of friends, and is about to get married to the wealthy (if kinda wimpy) Owen (Mark Hapka).

Hunter (Tyler Johnson) is a handsome and charming male stripper who dresses up like a fireman, can change a flat tire, and who happens to be really good with an ax.

Together, they solve crimes!

No, not really.  Instead, Hunter shows up at Amber’s bachelorette party.  He’s supposed to just be a part of the night’s entertainment but, instead, Hunter keeps showing up wherever Amber happens to be.  First, he just wants dance lessons.  Then, he’s kind of dating Amber’s best friend, Taryn (Rachele Brooke Smith).  Then, he’s bringing Amber a gift to thank her for the lessons.  Suddenly, he’s asking Amber if she wants to get lunch!  Amber doesn’t think that it’s a good idea for her to have lunch with Hunter, especially since Owen seems to have a hang-up about her hanging out with a mysterious man who has a great body.

Then again, Owen has issues of his own.  For instance, he doesn’t seem to have quite gotten over his previous girlfriend, the one who died mysteriously….

What Worked?

Okay, so I absolutely loved this movie.  I mean, how couldn’t I?  It combined two of my favorite things: over-the-top, in-your-face melodrama and dancing!  This movie was a lot of fun and Tyler Johnson really threw himself into playing the role of the psycho stripper.

The film also had a bit of a subversive side, as well.  Hunter may be a psycho but you still kind of find yourself on his side, if just because everyone else in the movie is so judgmental of him and how he makes his living.  Owen’s family is extremely wealthy and all of his friends are extremely privileged.  When they start giving Hunter a hard time about being a stripper (with one of them even throwing a dollar bill at him), you can’t help but feel a little bit bad for him.  (Of course, then he starts killing people and you’re like, “Okay, never mind….”)

My favorite character was Taryn, who was not only a good dancer but also the greatest best friends that one could possibly hope for.  She got all the best lines.  My personal favorite was, “We’re going to get in this car and plow his ass down!”

What Didn’t Work?

It all worked.  This was Lifetime at its best.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

A Lifetime film set in a dance studio?  To be honest, almost the entire film was an “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment.  I related to Taryn.  I’d like to think that, if there was a psycho wandering around outside, I too would be smart enough to grab a knife before going outside.

The last Bachelorette Party that I went to had a stripping fireman, just like this movie.  However, I don’t think he ever killed anyone.  Actually, rumor has it that he was a real fireman who had too much to drink that night.  Who knows?  Life is indeed a crazy tapestry.

Lessons Learned

Beware of strippers bearing gifts.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #197: My Daughter’s Ransom (dir by Doug Campbell)

On Thursday, I watched the first Lifetime film of 2019, My Daughter’s Ransom!

(a.k.a. My Daughter’s Ransom)

Why Was I Watching It?

New year, new lifetime movies!  Every year brings changes but one thing that will never change will be my love for these films and the enjoyment I get from reviewing them.

What Was It About?

Rachel (Scottie Thompson) has a good life.  Her husband, Tony (Matthew Pohlkamp), is a successful businessman who is on the verge of finalizing a big deal.  Her daughter, Lindsey (McKinley Blehm), is intelligent enough to know all about the theories of Charles Darwin.

Unfortunately, Rachel also has an ex-boyfriend named Carter (Lucas Kerr).  Carter’s just been released from prison and, as quickly becomes apparent, his incarceration did not lead to rehabilitation.  After spending months stalking Rachel and her family, Carter kidnaps Lindsey at the zoo.  If Rachel doesn’t do everything that Carter orders her to do, he’ll kill her daughter.

As Rachel tries to figure out a way to save her daughter, she also has to keep following Carter’s orders, which are not only increasingly outlandish but also increasingly dangerous for both Rachel and everyone that she loves….

What Worked?

As anyone who has spent any time watching the channel can tell you, the theme of abduction is a popular one when it comes to Lifetime movies.  That’s because these films deal with the fears that every parent has, not only that your child will be abducted but that you’ll be powerless to rescue them.  My Daughter’s Ransom did a good job of making that fear feel real, especially in the early moments when Rachel was desperately running around the zoo, looking for her daughter.  (The camera holds Rachel in a tight close-up while she searches for her daughter, emphasizing Rachel’s desperation to find her.)

For a film like this to work, you need a good villain and Lucas Kerr did a great job making Carter into the type of creepy, hissable bad guy who you just couldn’t wait to see get his comeuppance.  In the role of Rachel, Scottie Thompson also did great work and it was impossible not to sympathize with her as she tried to get someone to notice that she was in trouble without Carter figuring out what she was doing.

In fact, the entire cast did a great job.  My two favorite supporting characters were Gina (Davida Williams), the wife of Tony’s business partner, and Skates (Erika Fong), Tony’s secretary.  Neither one of them was willing to put up with any nonsense.  Personally, I think we need a sequel where Gina and Skates team up and solve crimes.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked!  My Daughter’s Ransom got the year off to a good start.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Rachel, I once had a weakness for bad boys.  Actually, now that I think about it, I still do.  That said, the character I most admired was Skates because it didn’t matter how much Carter ordered Rachel to yell at her and threaten to fire her, Skates wasn’t going to let anyone stop her from doing her job.

Lessons Learned

Bad boys never change.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #196: Killer Vacation (dir by Tamar Halpern)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime Movie Network premiere, Killer Vacation!

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was new and it was on the Lifetime Movie Network, of course!

Also, I watched it because the Christmas season has begun, which means that Lifetime is mostly going to be showing holiday movies for the next few weeks.  I absolutely love Christmas movies but, even during the holidays, there are times when you just want to see an over-the-top melodrama about someone trying to go on vacation without dying.  Killer Vacation offered a beak from the relentless holiday cheer so, of course, I was going to watch it while shopping online for Christmas decorations.

What Was It About?

Lindsey (Alexa Havins) is having an affair with her boss, Jake (Jacob Young).  Unfortunately, Jake’s married.  He swears that he’s getting divorced but Lindsey can’t help but notice that he still wears his wedding ring.  When Lindsey learns that she’s pregnant, Jake suggests that they go on a vacation together.  Soon, they’re at a resort in New Mexico and strange things are happening!

Could it have anything to do with the fact that Jake’s wife is wandering around the resort as well?  And what about the passive-aggressive private detective who keeps popping up at the most awkward possible moments?  And then there’s that handsome and overly friendly yoga instructor.  Is he trying to help or does he have ulterior motives?

One thing’s for sure.  This vacation is taking a deadly turn!

What Worked?

Never underestimate just how big a factor wish-fulfillment is when it comes to understanding the appeal of a good Lifetime film.  When a Lifetime film has the word “vacation” in the title, that means that the film is promising you lot of pretty scenery and a nice resort.  On that front, Killer Vacation definitely delivered!  New Mexico looked beautiful and I really liked the hotel where Jake and Lindsey were staying.

(In fact, that hotel reminded me of Paradise Hotel.  Remember that old reality show?  I used to watch marathons of it on the much-missed Fox Reality Channel.  The fact that we only got two seasons of Paradise Hotel is a crime!)

What Did Not Work?

At times, Lindsey seemed almost too dumb to be believed.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  We’ve all been there.  At some point, we’ve all fallen for the wrong guy and ignored all of our friends telling us we were making a mistake and accepted some pretty flimsy excuses for some unforgivable behavior.  So, it’s not that I couldn’t sympathize with Lindsey but seriously, it took Lindsey a really long time to reach the point that most people would reach right away.  Myself, I would buy a plane ticket home as soon as I suspected that my married lover had tried to push me off a cliff.  Maybe that’s just me.

As well, the identity of the murderer was just a bit too obvious.  The film did attempt to introduce some red herrings but it was pretty obvious who the killer was going to turn out to be.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to the scene where Lindsey slipped on a mountain path and nearly fell to her death.  That’s one reason why I rarely go to the desert because I would totally end up being the girl who got distracted and accidentally walked over the edge of a cliff.

Lessons Learned

Never pass up the opportunity to take a free yoga class!  Seriously, your life might depend upon it!

What Lisa Watched Last Night #195: Long Lost Daughter (dir by Christopher James Lang)

On Friday night, I watched the latest Lifetime premiere, Long Lost Daughter!

Why Was I Watching It?

First off, let me just say that, considering what the folks on the East Coast have had to deal with over the past two weeks, I feel really guilty about complaining about getting a little bit of rain in Texas.  (And it’s not really a complaint because, to be honest, I love stormy weather!)

That said, it rained all day Friday and it’s supposed to continue to rain through the weekend.  When I was driving home from work, the rain was so bad that I actually had to limit myself to 30 mph.  We’re under flash flood warning right now.  What better way to pass the time when you’re trapped inside by a storm than be watching a Lifetime movie?

What Was It About?

Cathy Rhodes (Molly Hagan) is a successful and acclaimed author of children’s books.  She’s written hundreds of stories about Mr. Poppins, a rabbit who can’t find his way home.  It’s made her a beloved figure in her small town but there are some who find Cathy and her husband (Bates Wilder) to be a little bit strange.  They whisper about how, 20 years earlier, Cathy’s 7 year-old daughter, Michelle, vanished.

Meanwhile, two new arrivals have come to town.  Jonathan (Richard Brancatisano) is an aspiring science fiction writer.  And his wife (Sofia Mattson) is going to help run the education center that Cathy has helped to fund.  It turns out that Jonathan’s wife is 27 years old and has no memory of her mother or her childhood.  And her name is …. Michelle!

Could Michelle be Cathy’s daughter?  That’s certainly what Cathy thinks and she’s willing to do anything to make sure that both her daughter and Mr. Poppins find their way home…

What Worked?

Molly Hagan may not be a household name but I can guarantee you that you would recognize her if you saw her.  She’s been in a countless number of films over the years and she is a truly great character actress.  She’s played so many different characters and she’s been totally convincing every time.  (I think her best-known recent film might be Sully, where she played one of the flight attendants who chanted, “Brace!  Brace!  Head down!  Stay down!”)  Anyway, Hagan does a great job as the Cathy Rhodes, making her both frightening and sympathetic.

Also giving a good performance was Bates Wilder, who played Cathy’s somewhat creepy husband.  Both he and Hagan keep you guessing.

Speaking of keeping you guessing, this film had an ambiguous ending that I absolutely loved.  I won’t spoil it but it was handled very well.  It’s the type of ending that I wish Lifetime would try more often.  Sometime, it’s not necessary to spell everything out.

What Did Not Work?

Could Michelle and Jonathan have been anymore unlikable?  Michelle acted like moving from the city to a small town was the equivalent of moving to a different country.  When Cathy mentioned she was making a casserole, Michelle’s smug response of, “Casserole!” was enough to make me decided that I wouldn’t ever want to know someone like Michelle in real life.

As for Jonathan … well, I lost all sympathy for him when he announced that, for him, being a writer was about business and not art.  “No one ever reads Proust anymore,” he said, at one point.  What a jerk!  Michelle, at least, kinda redeemed herself as the film progressed.  But Jonathan …. well, once a jerk, always a jerk.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Whenever Michelle got annoyed with Jonathan, I was like, “Oh my God!  I feel the exact same way!”

Lessons Learned

Don’t insult Proust.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #194: Her Boyfriend’s Secret (dir by Lisa France)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime movie premiere, Her Boyfriend’s Secret!

Why Was I Watching It?

With a title like that, how couldn’t I watch it!?  Seriously, whenever one of my friends gets a new boyfriend, I immediately start digging up all of their secrets.  I’m like the sassy best friend in a Lifetime movie except for the fact that I don’t get murdered right before the fifth commercial break.

What Was It About?

Melissa (Kelly Sullivan) and Travis (Jordan James Smith) have both built successful careers as home renovators.  In fact, everyone assumes that they must be a couple!  But no, they’re just friends and business colleagues.

In fact, Melissa may have met the one.  His name is John Anderson (Mark Famiglietti) and he’s handsome and charming and he owns a really big house.  Of course, it does seem strange that John is constantly taking business trips.  He claims that he spends his time flying from London to Paris to Geneva but he’s always kind of vague about what he actually does in any of those cities.

And then there’s Carrie (Maiara Walsh), the woman who approaches Melissa one day and informs her that 1) John is actually named Phillip and 2) Phillip/John has a history of stalking his ex-girlfriends!

That’s a lot of secrets but, believe it or not, there’s even more yet to be discovered!

What Worked?

I really liked this one.  Not only was it well-acted but it featured some really nice houses!  As any longtime fan can tell you, a good Lifetime film also features a combination of big melodrama and big houses!  The film’s central mystery was intriguing and Mark Famiglietti brought a convincing mix of creepiness and charm to the role of John.

Though I won’t spoil the nature of her role, Anne Leighton also gave a very good performance.  She’s doesn’t have a lot of screen time but she makes the most of it.

This film also played with the standard Lifetime stalker formula by casting a guy as the nosy best friend.  That actually added a whole new dynamic to all of the expected scenes of Travis digging into John’s background.  Was Travis right to be concerned or was he motivated by something more than just friendship?  The film did a good job of keeping you guessing.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked.  This was an entertaining Lifetime melodrama.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Again, as with all Lifetime films, I related to all of the skeptical and nosy best friends.  If only people would listen to them for once!

Lessons Learned

Just because someone has a big house, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should trust him.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #193: House of Darkness: New Blood (dir by Patrick DeLuca)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime Movie Network premiere, House of Darkness: New Blood!

Why Was I Watching It?

The main reason I was watching it was because it was on Lifetime.

That said, I was also intrigued by the fact that Lifetime was premiering a horror film.  In the past, horror has been one of the few genres that Lifetime has usually avoided.  It’s only been rather recently that Lifetime started to show movies that could even be considered a part of the horror genre and, as a horror aficionado, I’m curious to see what this development will lead to.

Of course, another big reason why I was watching it was because it’s been raining nonstop since Thursday so, for once, I actually spent a Friday night at home.  There’s nothing like watching a horror movie while surrounded by rain, thunder, and lightning!

What Was It About?

Judd (Liam McNeill) has asked Brooke (Kate Stone) to marry him!  Yay!

There’s only a few problems.  For one, Brooke’s creepy son, Dylan (Jake T. Getman), doesn’t seem to like Judd that much.  Secondly, Brooke has yet to meet Judd’s mother, Elaine (Hilary Momberger-Powers).  Elaine, it turns out, lives in a big house out in the country, a house that’s full of secrets and — you guessed it — darkness!  When Judd takes Brooke and Dylan out to the house, Elaine doesn’t seem to be happy to see any of them.  Judd says that it’s just a symptom of Elaine’s dementia but is that all there is to it?

Soon, Brooke is hearing weird noises, seeing dark shadows, and having terrible nightmares.  Judd says that it’s probably just a side effect of the sleep aid that she’s taking but Brooke isn’t too sure.  Is it all in Brooke’s head or has she truly discovered …. A HOUSE OF DARKNESS!?

What Worked?

There were a few effectively creepy moments.  The house was big and spooky and full of ominous atmosphere and Hilary Momberger-Powers did a good job as Elaine.  She kept you guessing and off-balance.

What Did Not Work?

House of Darkness ran into the same problem that’s haunted a lot of made-for-TV horror films.  It’s difficult to maintain suspense when you the story has to come to a stop every 15-to-20 minutes for a commercial break.  Every time that I found myself starting to get invested in the storyline, it was suddenly time for that Humira commercial where that guy meets his girlfriend’s parents for the first time.

The fact that it was on television also meant that the horror often had to be a bit low-key.  There was one hanging scene that was effectively horrific but otherwise, the film often felt a bit too restrained to be fully effective.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I know that it’s usually said that people are stupid for not just leaving an obviously haunted house but, to be honest, I’d probably stay even longer than Brooke did.  I mean, it’s not every day you get to deal with the paranormal.

Lessons Learned

Always check the lights before moving into a new house.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #192: His Perfect Obsession (dir by Alexandre Carrière)

Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime premiere, His Perfect Obsession!

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on Lifetime, of course!

Plus, I was kinda hoping that it would be like a special Labor Day movie.  Since I’m still not sure what Labor Day is actually supposed to celebrate, I thought maybe His Perfect Obsession would provide some clues.  (Unfortunately, it did not.)

 What Was It About?

Bart (Brendan Murray) is an accountant with a problem.  He’s obsessed with both his client, Allison (Arianne Zucker), and her blind teenage daughter Abigail (Ali Skovbye).  However, Allison doesn’t want to date him and Abigail doesn’t really seem to like him that much either.  Even after Bart murders Allison’s creep of an ex, Allison still doesn’t want to go out with him.  She’d rather go out with a sleazy real estate agent.

What is a crazy sociopath like Bart to do?  He tries drinking at the local bar but the bartender keeps getting in his business.  He tries murdering his mother but that really doesn’t do much for him, either.  Finally, Bart remembers that he does have that remote cabin that hardly anyone knows about…

What Worked?

His Perfect Obsession was filmed in Canada and, visually, it made good use of the snowy landscape.  I especially liked a scene at the start of the film where Bart approached Abigail outside of her house and they had an awkward conversation while the frozen ground glowed in the night behind them.

The performances were all excellent.  Brendan Murray was wonderfully creepy as Bart and Arianne Zucker and Ali Skovbye were both perfectly cast as the mother and daughter.

A lot of us watching online especially liked the character of Ben (Scott Gibson), the world’s most heroic bartender.  If Captain America got a job working in a bar, he’d be a lot like Ben.

Finally, there was a character named Lance Lancaster (Seann Gallagher), who everyone liked because his name was Lance Lancaster.  That’s like one of the greatest names ever!

What Did Not Work?

In general, I’m not a fan of any movie where the final half of the film is taken up with scenes of people being held hostage.  A hostage situation always seems to stall whatever narrative momentum the film has been building up and that’s what happened with His Perfect Obsession.

The scene where Bart murders his mother was so drawn out that the scene itself almost became extremely unpleasant and rather icky to watch.  I know that might sound strange coming from a self-confessed horror fanatic like me but the scene was just way too sadistic for a Lifetime film.  As of late, Lifetime seems to be trying to be a bit more edgy as far as violence is concerned but that’s really not why people watch Lifetime.  Lifetime melodrama should be fun, not traumatic.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I’ve never actually worked with a professional accountant.  My sisters do my taxes for me and, when it comes to money, I find that it’s better to spend it now and hold off on worrying until later.  So, I really couldn’t relate to that part of the movie.

What I did relate to was the relationship between Allison and Abigail, which felt very real and was well-played by both actresses.  It reminded me of the type of relationship that I had with my mom.

Lessons Learned

Use TurboTax.